After months of training, and going to school and studying and taking tests, and saving my pennies, and planning out every little logistical detail, I was finally on a plane. The flight was taking me to New York, and the nation’s biggest criterium races of the summer, namely the Wilmington Grand Prix in Delaware and the Tour of Sommerville in New Jersey (supposedly, the nation’s oldest criterium).
I’d spent much of the past winter and the early spring months staring out my window during my commute from Pearland to the University of Houston, and wishing that I was competing in the races that I got a taste of last season, my first as a professional cyclist with Astellas. In 2015, I’d decided to focus on school, rather than race in the pro peloton for much of the spring. But now, with the semester coming to a close, I again had the time to race at the top criterium level.
But this time around, I would be alone. (And in the interest of shameless self-promotion, I made my own hash tag, #pincusOnTheRoad2015.)
Moments after getting off the plane my nose was filled with the smell of pizza and taxi fumes. I was quickly found and saved by my girlfriend, Stan’s No Tubes racer Sara Yancovitz, who was born and raised in this city. Sara’s parents, as well as my team, Super Squadra, had been crucial in supporting my summer travels.
Not long after acclimating to the life of subways and city biking, we headed toward Wilmington, and I was overtaken by excitement. Being an NCC event meant that all the normal pro criterium squads were going to be there, and I was excited for an opportunity to flex my legs against them. In 2014, I played a successful team role with Astellas, and we won the USA Crits team title overall, but I didn’t get any results for myself. Now, racing alone, I aimed to place in the money.
Rolling up to the line the only people that recognized me were my former teammates. Fully clad in Super Squadra clothing, this would be the first time since 2013 that I would be representing my small Austin-based team on a national stage. I was both excited, and a little nervous. The race was fast, as predicted, and the narrow, technical course made things difficult to move around in the peloton.
By the time I got near the front of the group, I had already missed what would be the winning move of the day. I launched a hard solo bridge attempt but was reeled back in. For the rest of the race I was attentive, near the front trying to get into a second split, but the big teams were controlling the pace and I was at the mercy of their control. Towards the end of the race, I got excited. I burned too many matches looking for the late race move, and rolled in with the pack, result-less.
The next day at the Kelly’s Cup criterium in Baltimore—not a national event, but still well attended by top amateurs and pros—I decided to learn from my mistakes. I kept telling myself that since I had no team, I had to suck it up when the race got boring and try for the best result I can. Things turned around. I was able to sit in, and only use my legs a few times to make sure anything super dangerous did not sneak away. In the (very argy bargy) sprint finish, I got 9th, my first top ten of the trip.
Even better, a day or so later, I learned I would get a guest ride spot at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic with New York’s Foundation Cycling Team. But first, I need to keep focus on my next race, the Tour of Somerville, on Memorial Day weekend.